I’ve been back in NorCal for a solid week and am finally starting to feel calm again. My book tour through the Pacific Northwest was incredibly fun and woefully difficult. You can see my daily videos here, but if you’re not the video type, read on to hear what I learned.
1) The PNW is beautiful, but you knew that already.
2) I learned a lot about the various places I visited, particularly because I was couch surfing with locals. This meant that I was calling Vancouver’s Commercial Drive “The Drive” by the end of my first day there, I had noodles at the BEST place in Victoria’s Chinatown, and I pretty much memorized Portland’s main bus routes. Which leads me to. . .
3) I HATE riding buses. Actually, I hate riding buses with 2 forty pound suitcases full of books and clothes. In the future, when in a city for more than 2 days, I will absolutely rent a car. Despite the additional cost, having my own transportation would have saved me huge headaches, showing up at venues sweaty, and many hours I could have been working.
4) Nevertheless, being able to sell books on the road is wonderful, and giving copies to my hosts was wonderful, too. I sold out completely on my last night in town, save one copy that I left for my last hostess. It was good math. Over the whole tour, I sold 33 books from my own stash, and I’m now completely sold out. (But you can still get copies by ordering at indie bookstores or on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s.)
5) 17 days is a long time to be away from home. I feel like a lightweight for even saying this, knowing how many of my peers are hoofing it around the country for weeks on end, but seriously, as an introvert, I was emotionally exhausted after Day 3.
6) I enjoy teaching workshops immensely. This is one way to asset my income on the road. Selling 30 books only nets me $450 my whole time away, but by teaching workshops I can make far more. But it’s far more than just income. I like connecting with people, offering my best knowledge, and helping problem solve. I really get a kick out of teaching, and it’s one of the few places where I feel like I get energy whilst in front of a large audience.
7) My LIT! event was received very well in Vancouver and Portland. It’s great fun listening to queer authors share their work. That said, I find throwing events far more nerve-wracking than teaching classes. This is great information for me. In the future, I’ll probably focus on teaching workshops and only do LIT events every once in a while.
8.) With more advanced planning, I’d like to try to ship books to various cities so I don’t have to lug them everywhere.
9) Meeting people is fun. Again, I’m an introvert, but it’s been great fun meeting rad people through the mutual friends I had in each city
10) Being busy every day is great. Having something every day, while exhausting, is a great way to keep from sinking into a rut.
11) Staying in people’s homes is challenging to my midwestern sensibilities, but really rewarding. I got to reconnect with friends I don’t see very often, eat healthy home cooked meals, and save a lot of cash.
12) Taking alone time is paramount. I started creating boundaries for myself. Since I was staying with friends and I knew I’d want to catch up, I decided to mentally prepare to have two hours of chatting upon arrival, after which I’d set up my bed or go out to a cafe to work. This helped me get the alone time I so desperately need, while still getting to connect with my buddies.
13) Just do it. There are amazing people everywhere who are looking to connect. I’ve realized that one of my big roles in my writing and publishing endeavors is to act as a permission-giver. So many people are paralyzed by fear when they try to make art or meet people. We create these strange hierarchies in our heads that make those who “do” more worthy than those who don’t. That is simply bullshit. A published writer is just a bit further ahead down the same path you’re traveling on. It doesn’t make them better, it usually just means that they laced their boots up faster and started jogging. You can get to the same destination if you just start taking steps.
14) The same goes for events. If you don’t have the community you want in your town, make it. Give people a reason to get out of the house and connect. This is the driving force behind LIT. While we all like hearing good readings, it’s also important to get the writers to come out to a venue and meet each other.
15) I really, really love teaching creativity. I taught Practical Creativity and Creativity for Radicals while on the road. Both classes allow me to connect with people who are blocked or nervous or otherwise unable to create the art they want to. I love teaching practical tools for establishing a creative practice. Both of these workshops I’m turning into books, so hopefully even if I’m not visiting your city this year, you can get the good info I’ve created.
16) You don’t need to pack instant coffee when visiting the Pacific Northwest.
17) Learn to rely on the kindness of acquaintances. Back with the midwestern sensibility thing- I hate being a burden. I’m a wickedly self-sufficient kind of gal, so it sucks to have to ask people for rides or to use their cell phone, or to give me change for the bus. But, most people want to be of service, and it’s fun to help people out. So, I learned to ask for what I needed and found most people 100% enthusiastic about helping.
18) Poutine is still amazing, after all these years. And nothing will ever make me feel more contented than a Bloody Mary and a dozen oysters.
19) Content is king, but connection is a close second. I taught many workshops and did many readings, and above all, it was important for me to deliver on the promises I made throughout these commitments. Many people asked for my opinion on many things, and it was important for me to listen and offer my best stuff. I’m happy to say that it seems as though I was successful on this. I learned to shut off my inner critic and offer what I know to the extent that I could. That said, it’s almost as important to connect with people. Even if the answer to their question is “I don’t know” or you have nothing to offer except a little bit of your art, showing up and letting people know people like you exist and they have friendly souls along their own path is absolutely huge.
20) I’m still playing catchup. Most of my days were free, whilst I taught or read in the evenings. That said, my work load is pretty hefty and coming home launched me right back into DayJobLandia. If you are waiting for something from me (say, a free bonus when you signed up for my newsletter), I promise I haven’t forgotten, and I’ll get it to you soon.
21) After all the difficulty, I feel very enriched by my experience. I expanded my social circle to include more rad folks in each city, deepened friendships with people I had only known casually, and spent a lot of time contemplating the kind of artist, educator, and person I want to be in the world. As a person who usually travels with a backpack and change of shoes, it was harrowing to remake my travel routine into one more suited for a professional writer. But, as with the writing of Lunatic Fringe, despite the difficult and at times painful experience, I came out of it more resolved than ever that this is the path for me. I want to keep writing books and teaching people what I know, and that conviction is worth more than some sore biceps, lumpy couches, and stinky buses.
I want to offer a sincere thank you to everyone who came out to a workshop, reading, or event along my tour. Special mad love to Kim, Cass, John, Keets, Dawn, Janelle, Mitch, Jillian, Captain, Micki, Jay, Felice, Laura, A.M, Cooper, the readers at LIT!, the staff at She Bop, the Art of Loving, the Jack London, and Rhizome Cafe, and the smarty-pantses at Ooligan Press. Every single one of you was awesome, fun and kind. I seriously didn’t meet one person that I didn’t sincerely enjoy. So thank you for reaching out and taking the time to check me and/or my writing out. If you have any feedback you’d like to offer me about any of the events you attended, always feel free to email me at Moon(at)TalesofthePack.com.